There are so many things to consider when it comes to estate planning, it can feel overwhelming. Let’s dive into the basics of estate planning with an issue that many people find confusing. What are the differences between a will and a trust, and which do you need?

Both exist to transfer your assets to loved ones, but the way they do so is very different. For most people, having both a will and a trust is the ideal plan to protect those you love and ensure that your wishes are carried out upon your death. 


In its simplest form, a will details your wishes for after your death. This typically includes your property but can also include your funeral plans and preferences as well as guardian appointments for your children. 

Without a legally appointed guardian, the court will determine your childrens’ guardian if you pass away. Close family or friends may still end up becoming your child’s guardian, but not until after a court process, and they may still end up with court oversight in their care.


There are several different kinds of trusts, serving different purposes. The most common trust is a living revocable trust. Living revocable trusts are established by you and take effect immediately. You will be in control of the trust during your lifetime, and control will be passed to a trustee of your choosing when you die or become incapacitated. 

Unlike wills, trusts allow for your assets to be transferred to your heirs without having to go through the court system in a process called probate. Even if you have a will, without a trust your family will most likely have to go through probate to be able to legally carry out the directives of your will.

With a living revocable trust, your property can be passed on to your heirs privately and outside of the court system.

A living trust becomes effective as soon as it is signed. This means that if you become incapacitated or unable to make your own decisions, your trustee will take control.

Should You Have a Will or a Trust?

Most people are best served with both a will and a trust in their estate plan. It’s a good strategy to include large assets like your home and financial accounts in your trust so they can be smoothly and easily distributed according to your wishes. 

As you can see, there are benefits to both wills and trusts, and your estate plan should include both tools to make the process of distributing your assets easy and pain-free. 

At Piscataqua Savings Bank, our Trust and Investment Department helps individuals and families achieve their long-term financial goals with specialized wealth management strategies for investment and retirement accounts. We also provide trust and estate administration by serving as a corporate trustee or executor for matters of probate. Contact our Trust and Investment Department by phone at (603) 430-2955 or email to get started with professional, objective wealth management advice and caring trust estate administration.

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